Donald Trump has referred to the coronavirus as “the Chinese virus”, escalating a deepening US-China diplomatic spat over the outbreak.

After giving an address on Monday warning of a possible recession, the US president posted on Twitter:

“The United States will be powerfully supporting those industries, like Airlines and others, that are particularly affected by the Chinese Virus. We will be stronger than ever before!”

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Trump should take care of his own matters first. “Some US politicians have tried to stigmatise China … which Chinastrongly condemns,” he said at apress briefing on Tuesday.

“We urge the US to stop this despicable practice. We are veryangry and strongly oppose it [thetweet].”

The World Health Organization has advised against terms that link the virus to China or the city of Wuhan, where it was first detected, in order to avoid discrimination or stigmatization.

The comment comes as Beijing and Washington appeared to be locked in a game of shifting blame. Last week, outspoken official Zhao Lijian from China’s ministry of foreign affairs accused the US military of bringing the virus to Wuhan. The US summoned Chinese ambassador Cui Tiankai over thecomment and issued a “stern” warning to Cui.

On Monday, the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, issued “strong US objections” in a phone call with top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi.

According to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, Yang also issued “strong objections” to attempts by the US to “slander and smear” China’s efforts in combatting thevirus.

Yang said such efforts would “not succeed” and that any harmto Chinese interests would inviteretaliation.

An editorial by the state news agency Xinhua on Tuesday said: “Using racist and xenophobic names to cast blame for the outbreak on other countries can only reveal politicians’ irresponsibility and incompetence.”

As the global infections have surpassed those within China, Chinese diplomats and officials have begun pushingthe idea that the virus did not originate within China.Observers say both sides appearto bedeflecting domestic criticism.

Trump’s administration has been accused of moving too slowly torespond to the virus while Chinese authorities have been accused of covering up initial warnings about the outbreak andsuppressing information throughout the crisis.

“This is his pathetic attempt at distracting people from his competence but it won’t work,” one internet user wrote on Weibo, among hundreds of angry and mocking comments over Trump’s remark.

“Just whenyou think he could not go any lower,” another wrote on the discussion forum, Douban. “I amboth laughing and speechless,” another said on Weibo.

The state-run tabloid Global Times posted on Twitter, which is blocked in China, that Trump was trying to “pass the buck”.

Credit: The Guardian

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